IT IS one of the game's most important roles, but who are the best at it?
The wingman is each club's connector: the hard-running, usually skilful, vital member of the midfield who can be a defensive cog as well as an attacking force.
But it is often a job neglected in the Virgin Australia AFL All Australian team, with inside-the-centre midfielders usually pushed out to a wing role when the best 22 is selected every season.
LADDER PREDICTOR Can your team make the eight?
Last year's All-Australian wingmen, Western Bulldogs' Marcus Bontempelli and Geelong's Tim Kelly, spent 1.2 per cent and 9.7 per cent of their respective seasons playing as wingmen.
But if this year's team included pure wingmen, who would get the spots?
Champion Data has scoured the competition to find 12 of the AFL's best wingmen – some established, some emerging and some who do their work across the ground – to assess who would have claims on an All-Australian spot.
Lachie Hunter (Western Bulldogs)
In fewer matches than other contenders the premiership Bulldog continues to show his class. Spending 75 per cent of his game time on the wing, Hunter is perhaps the competition's best. He leads the group for disposals, and is ranked elite in uncontested possessions, metres gained, score involvements, disposals and AFL Player Ratings.
Sam Menegola (Geelong)
The under-the-radar performer. Few talk about Menegola as being a central part of the Cats' premiership hopes but he has been crucial this season. Spending nearly 90 per cent of his time on a wing, Menegola ranks elite for disposals, uncontested disposals, metres gained, clearances and score involvements.
Hugh McCluggage (Brisbane)
McCluggage is a pivotal player in the Lions' charge to the finals. He is a wingman who makes an impact forward, where he has spent 16 per cent of his time this season. Although not as much of a ball-winner as others in this list, he is second for his average of 5.5 score involvements a game.
Sam Walsh (Carlton)
Walsh ranks above average or elite across the board in all the key categories, showing the young Blues star's talents. Having moved to the wing this year, Walsh has proven his qualities and kept up the lofty standards from his debut season. Has probably been the competition's best wingman over the past six weeks.
Josh Daicos (Collingwood)
Daicos is one of this year's biggest improvers since taking on a near permanent role on one of Collingwood's wings. Spending 85 per cent of his game there, the smart and skllful user has stepped up in big games and impacts with his disposal.
Ed Langdon (Melbourne)
Brought to the Demons as a wing fix, Langdon has delivered. The former Docker has spent 99.3 per cent of his season on one of Melbourne's wings, ranking among the best for metres gained and proving to be a crucial link-up player for the Demons with his gruelling run.
Harry Perryman (GWS)
Perryman was heading forward earlier in the year from the wing, booting nine goals in the first four rounds, but he has also spent 25 per cent of the season in defence. When he's in the midfield, though, it works for the Giants, and he's above average for disposals and metres gained.
Adam Cerra (Fremantle)
Cerra has spent a lot of time through the centre bounces, and so his time on the wing is naturally down compared to others' (62.2 per cent). But the young Docker is also excellent on a wing, and ranks best of this list for pressure points (41.5).
Jack Billings (St Kilda)
By spending a quarter of his game time in the forward line (23 per cent), some of Billings' wing markers are at different levels to his contemporaries. But the silky midfielder remains lethal with the ball and is categorised as above average for disposals, uncontested possessions, metres gained, clearances and score involvements.
Andrew Gaff (West Coast)
Gaff has been the AFL's wing king for many years. But he is also now spending nearly half of his game time away from his once customary spot (he has played 58.1 per cent of this year there). He is a player who penetrates through his ability to keep finding the ball.
Shaun Higgins (North Melbourne)
An established gun who has managed to remain a contributor despite North's struggles this season. Higgins hasn't played even half of his game time on the wing this year, however, with the Roos choosing to use him at centre bounces more often.
Karl Amon (Port Adelaide)
A pure winger who has been a consistent part of Port Adelaide's ascent up the ladder. He is at the lower end for his disposal average, but Amon makes them count on that left foot and is also above average for the other key categories, including score involvements and metres gained.
|Wing %||AFL Player Ratings||Disposals||Uncont. Poss.||Metres Gained||Clearances||Score Inv.||Pressure Points|
*Data up to date prior to Melbourne v Fremantle clash on Monday night